Imagine a single tree
which contains enough wood to build forty 5-room houses. A tree taller than the Statue of
Liberty. And weighing up to 4,000 tonnes.
Impressed? You should be. The California
Redwood, also known as the coast redwood, isn't a tree to be sneezed at. The
largest tree in the world- and the tallest (and oldest) living thing on earth- the redwood
grows to a height of up to 107 mt, and can have a circumference of 29 mt near its base.
Little wonder then that native American Indians revered these trees and believed them to
be the home of powerful spirits.
There are very few places on earth where
you can still see the coniferous redwood in all its glory; its bark red with tannin, its
branches cloaked with needle-like leaves. And one of those places is California's Redwood
National Park, a stretch of pure redwood stands, interspersed with grasslands and oak
woods which harbour a wealth of animal life. The park, which stretches along California's
north west Pacific Coast, is crisscrossed by several rivers. Adjacent to it are three
California State parks- Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State
Park and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park- all of which together make up one of the most
awesome forests in the world.
Redwood National Park is best seen on a
hike along the coast, where, besides the splendid trees, you will probably also get a
glimpse of the local wildlife- elk, black bear, mountain lion, and a range of smaller
mammals and birds. The greatest attraction (quite literally) of the park is the `Tall
Tree', the tallest living redwood. It's more than 600 years old and was measured
in 1963 to a height of 112.1 mt, although the top's broken off since then.
No entry fee is required to visit Redwood National Park,
but if you're visiting the neighbouring state parks- Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park,
Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park- you'll have to
pay a fee of US$ 5. Fishing, backpacking and hiking are allowed within the park, but will
need a permit, which is free in most cases.
Redwood National Park is linked by air and road to the rest
of the country. The nearest major airport is at Sacramento, while smaller airfields at
Eureka, Crescent City and McKinleyville receive chartered flights. From all of these
airports rented cars or buses can be taken to the park.
Two highways, #101 and 199, and two state roads, #299 and
36, lead to Redwood National Park. Greyhound buses travel through the park twice daily,
and are one of the most convenient ways of getting to the park. Cars can be rented from
any of the nearby towns to drive to Redwood.
The entire Redwood National Park area is dissected by
walking and bicycle trails, and a hike through the park is really the best way to see the
redwoods in all their splendour. For walking, cycling or horse-back tours, maps are
available at the visitor centres. Ranger-guided walks are also conducted through the park.
Please note that bears and mountain lions
live in this area, and if you're setting off on your own, you should take suitable
precautions to avoid running into one of these. Check with the park authorities before
setting off down a trail- they can give you the low-down on the `dos and don'ts' of moving
through the area.
Best time to visit
Redwood National Park is open throughout
the year, and any time is a good time to visit, although summers are peak season and
result in hordes of tourists. This area is temperate bordering on chilly all through-
temperatures range from 4°C to about 20°C. The park is subject to a lot of fog, and
precipitation is fairly uniform- as well as heavy- all through. Make sure, whenever you go
visiting, to wear sufficient woollens, preferably in layers, and to carry a raincoat or
Accommodation options in Redwood National
Park include campgrounds and a tourist lodge. The latter, known as the Redwood Hostel, is
inexpensive and offers basic facilities. Minimalist campgrounds offer the bare
necessities, and campers are requested to follow the park's `Leave no Trace' principles,
to preserve the area's ecology. Camping rough is definitely a no-no.
Outside the park, in the nearby towns of
Orick, Trinidad, Klamath, Arcata, Eureka, McKinleyville, Crescent City, Smith River and
Fields Landing are a number of hotels, motels, inns and tourist lodges. Tariffs range from
budget to luxury.
Further information on Redwood National
Park is available from the National Park Service (Tel: 1-800-365-2267). Bookings for
accommodation and tours can be made at the same phone number. Alternatively, you could
contact the park directly at: Redwood National Park, 1111 Second Street, Crescent City,
California (Tel: 707-464-6101). The park has three visitor centres, at Crescent City,
Redwood and Hiouchi, where further information and assistance is available.